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Culture Friday: The line running down America’s conscience


WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: The line running down America’s conscience

One year after the end of Roe v. Wade, the divide over abortion has grown significantly

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s the 23rd day of June 2023. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s Culture Friday.

Joining us now is John Stonestreet, the president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint Podcast. John, good morning.


EICHER: Well, it's been one year since the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, the actual anniversary will be considered on Saturday because that is the date of the of the Supreme Court's decision. But I remember it was on a Friday and my it's my vivid memory because one of my son's weddings, we were doing the rehearsal dinner that night, and just had gotten the news about the overturning of Roe v. Wade. And I had to pause and just take a moment, talking with our group, that we're never going to forget this day for a whole lot of reasons. But also the historic nature of the day.

So I want to spend the time today, Myrna and I want to talk to you just sort of about the year that has gone on since that big day. But let's begin by just going back in our memories, John, and talk about what your most vivid memory was from that historic day one year ago.

STONESTREET: I think part of it was certainly the celebrations and being lectured about those celebrations by some and thinking, “no, this, this needs to go down in history, this is an evil that is now out of the law.” And again, it didn’t end the evil of abortion, but the law itself was evil: the language of it, what it valued, what it prioritized, what it enthroned essentially, and that is now gone. That became a huge moment.

It also was a moment where a whole lot of people who spent a whole lot of years got to see at least part of the fruition of what they worked so hard for. I don’t think any of them thought this means it’s over. And we certainly have learned that lesson. But culture without Roe, a country without Roe in the books is better than one with it. And I think that’s an important note.

The other thing that I remembered, and this will kind of point to some of the nerdier aspects of who I am, was really the anticipation of figuring out okay, what exactly is in the Dobbs decision, how far did it go in terms of the willingness to really push back on things that are “settled law” and suggest that they aren’t. That’s a huge thing that was put into those opinions. And then just Alito’s mastery of the whole case and the things that he wrote, those were really important parts of it to me.

EICHER: Didn't you kind of take the leaked opinion and compare it with the final draft just to see was it word for word pretty, pretty much what we expected?

STONESTREET: Oh, yeah. That was kind of fun, too. Yeah, maybe that’s even more memorable. I remember connecting in Atlanta, rushing from one plane to the next when the leaked opinion was released. And the news of that, and just how kind of crazy that whole moment was, and then immediately calling some legal folks and saying, "Alright, tell me what I’m supposed to think about this." And I was really grateful.

For example, Erin Hawley from the Alliance Defending Freedom and Ryan Anderson both jumped on our podcast within hours, early the next morning. Aaron had actually read the whole thing, which is really impressive. I mean, midway through it was like, "Oh, you didn’t just read summaries, you read the whole thing?" She was like, "Oh, yeah, I stayed up all night reading." And it was pretty close. I mean, that was really a remarkable thing, the courage of Alito to go, “I already know what how everyone’s going to react because everyone already reacted. And I’m not backing off at all.” And he didn’t.

BROWN: John, right after the Dobbs decision last year, I spent quite some time talking to a number of pro-lifers, research for a three-part special report I got to work on, all about the best way to serve mothers who feel like they are unable to care for their newborn babies.

And, I gotta tell you lots of disagreement over the best way to do that. So in your mind, what are the primary dividing lines in this post-Roe reality?

STONESTREET: We have a game around the Colson center, it’s called, “how many times is John going to quote Alexander Solzhenitsyn either ‘Live not by lies’ or ‘The line of good and evil runs right down the middle of the human heart,’” but I’m going to go with that second one here. The primary dividing line is in the American conscience. We have a dividing line right down the middle of America. We haven’t had a moral issue that has so deeply split America state by state since slavery, and God help us I hope the result is not the same as it was there, that the ending of a great evil ends up leading to that sort of conflict. We know that there’s conflict. And we know that pro-abortion states have run further and further and further away from safe, legal and rare into all kinds of additional evil so that in some states, what the end of Roe wrought is worse than what was there during Roe. But we’ve also had incredible restrictions on abortion, and a holding back of that evil to the result as 538, that website reported last week, the net number is about 28,000 fewer abortions over the last year during this 11 month period. And that’s good news. But I also think there’s a real problem in the conscience. 

I mean, we’re seeing polling literally all over the place, depending on how you ask the question, if the question is asked, "What do you think?" then America’s way more pro-life than we hear. If you ask, "should there be restrictions on people’s behavior?" I mean, clearly, we are a nation that’s far more committed to a radical autonomy, individualism and relativism, that we don’t want to tell people and make it impossible for them to kill their children. That’s not the mark of a civilized society. So I think we’ve got a real divergence, I think the younger generation in particular, has a hard time imagining that the world is a place of good and evil. The worldview that is underlying and sustaining this evil, it’s not just going to be getting rid of that when we say the goal is not just that abortion is illegal but unthinkable, that’s worldview work at the level of fundamental beliefs about reality and about human beings. And I think that we have come to see just how much of a worldview crisis there is.

BROWN: Hey, can I follow up real quick? Because in your answer, you mentioned slavery, and, you know, not seeing dividing lines, you know, so prominent as in during slavery, as it relates to the movement, the pro-life movement, do you see any parallels between the pro-life movement and the civil rights movement of the 60s?

STONESTREET: I think that there’s a couple of ways to mark that, and I think maybe the most important things that we learned from the Civil Rights Movement is a lesson on exposing reality and showing what’s actually happening. And there’s not much of a stomach right now for really saying, look this is really the nitty gritty of it.

Now look, I’m not talking about putting posters on vans and driving them around innocent bystanders, especially children. But there needs to be an exposure of what actually happens during abortion. I think there’s also that emblem that was Josiah Wedgwood’s, "Am I not a man and a brother?" which was not only portraying the evil of slavery but making that argument for the humanity of every person. And I think the more we can show the humanity of the unborn and the good of children—Myrna we’re talking about a culture right now that talks to women as if their healthy functioning reproductive capacity is the greatest obstacle to their humanness. The children right now are disposable entities. There’s so many parallels here.

I also think that the moral conscience was awakened in America by appealing to God, and appealing to what God created and what’s true. And I think we’re probably while we can make incredibly important arguments based on science and technology and ultrasounds and genetics and embryology (and we should make as many arguments as we can,) for people of faith who are wishy-washy on this issue, we need some more of what we saw from Martin Luther King, Jr. and others, basically pointing back to theological truths and saying, “look, you can’t get away from the fact if you say this, you’re committed to this, and he did that. And he called people of faith to that sort of cause.” So I think there’s parallels there too. So the short answer is yes. I mean, we could probably start digging up this and find a lot more.

EICHER: John, we may not have time. We're really tight on time. But I do want to ask, we talked about the lessons of of Roe versus Wade and having it overturned. But we've had a year of post-Roe. What do you think is going to be different about the next year in, again, sort of building that culture of life because we've got abortion states and we've got life states in America. Have we learned anything in the one year of being post Roe that may inform the year ahead?

STONESTREET: Yeah, you know, I think a couple things. Number one is that the law actually does matter. And the number of people who downplayed the significance of this law, they need to then go back and see the actual data on the ground that a year later, in pro-life states, the number of abortions dramatically decreased. The number in pro-abortion states, the number of abortions increased pretty dramatically. And that's due to the law and everything that the law comes---the law is not separate from the culture that was part of the culture, and it leads to culture sometimes, and it follows the culture. And so what is thinkable and is largely informed by what's allowable, that also means elections have consequences, like it or not. And so that's something we have to take into consideration, even as we kind of go back to the ickiness of the process that a lot of us feel, that this stuff, you know, really does matter. I think also just how far pro-abortion states went is pretty significant. And that surprised even some of us. You know, it's one thing to say, "Okay, we want no restrictions on abortion," it's another thing to, you know, kind of remove all restrictions and then also, you know, including language like they did in Colorado, in Michigan, about, you know, the sex selective abortion or, you know, abortion designed to target children with particular in utero conditions. I mean, now, we're talking eugenics in an obvious, unapologetic way. And that was certainly, you know, open. And the blatant attacks on pro lifers, and I mean, physical attacks, but also legal attacks where in Colorado, the so-called, you know, "false advertising laws." I mean, that is something that a lot of people feared but maybe didn't have on their bingo card here for the coming year. You know, I think the other thing and probably the most notable, practical, on the ground reality is the explosive growth of chemical abortions. Over 50% of abortions are now attributed to that kind and those are particularly hard to track. And so, that is a an enormous development on, you know, of on the ground concerns.

EICHER: All right. John Stonestreet is President of the Colson Center, and he's host of the Breakpoint Podcast. It's always great to talk with you, John. I really appreciate the time, and we'll catch you next time. Have a good one.

STONESTREET: Thank you both.

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